School threat investigated, found ‘not credible,’ no ‘imminent danger’ feared; student told to stay home

Dave Marner
Managing Editor

Gasconade County Sheriff John Romanus said once his department’s report is finalized on a pipe-bomb threat, allegedly made by an Owensville High School student the evening of Jan. 24 in an online chat format, it will be forwarded to the county’s juvenile officer for review and further criminal action if warranted.

Although Romanus said Tuesday they had conducted interviews with more than one youth during the initial stages of their investigation, he believes they correctly identified the one student responsible for sending out the text and a photograph accompanying the message transcribed with this story.

“Based on information we received, he (the suspended student) sent the text. Correct,” said Romanus when asked about its origin. He added, saying, “We continue to investigate. We follow up and question others who may know something. We don’t assume anything is complete.” 

Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Wilbanks concurred.

“That’s what’s been reported to us,” Wilbanks told The Republican. “Only one person was responsible for creating the message.”

Wilbanks said school officials told sheriff’s deputies that school staff had searched the building Friday morning. “School staff confirmed a search was done,” he said.

Gasconade County R-2 School District Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said early Friday afternoon the high school student faces suspension of a yet undetermined period up to expulsion for an online chat message of a threatening nature.

R-2 administrators were made aware of the threat around 9:30 p.m. Thursday and immediately contacted Owensville police and the county sheriff’s department. Garner said Friday that sheriff’s deputies went to the male student’s residence on Thursday night for a “home visit” and spoke with him and his parents.

No home-made weapons were discovered at the boy’s home, Garner said.

Garner said there was “no imminent danger” to school property, personnel or students but requested a law enforcement presence at the building for the start of school on Friday. He said the high school’s assistant principal, Kris Altemeyer, was notified by a third party about the message.

Garner said the boy’s family was notified and informed he should not come to school on Friday. He faces disciplinary action based on district policy which could vary between one day up to expulsion depending on severity of the action and frequency of discipline problems.

Garner said the threat falls under the parameters of disciplinary action through enforcement of the Safe Schools Act.

Contacted around 9:30 a.m. Friday, City Marshal Robert Rickerd said that the city’s patrolman who serves as school resource officer for the school district and a sheriff’s deputy were “floating around” the building Friday morning as a precaution.

Rickerd said county law enforcement was handling the investigation since the student in question lives outside the city of Owensville in the county’s jurisdiction.

“At this time, it sounds like, that as far as we know, at this time it (the threat) doesn’t sound credible. It’s apparently a third-party message passed on about a possible bomb threat at the (high) school.”